After four long years of waiting the IFMAR World Championships were back and the Baldo family and crew provided the world with an event to remember in Redován, Spain. One of the largest tracks in the world with the soil held tightly together provided an indoor track feeling on a monstrous 50+ second a lap track. It also had a top right to bottom left elevation change of at least 20', and a multi-surface layout with bricks and concrete all providing a dynamic layout testing each man and machine. The competition was the deepest it has ever been and being on a track that is semi-permanent with many fast drivers being very comfortable on it made for an extreme level of competition.
Our first opportunity to get on the track was Sunday the 4th with 3 open practice runs. It was followed up Monday with 3 more runs. While none of these 6 runs counted for anything, everyone was still keen on where they stacked up by 3 consecutive laps after each round and for the ROAR block of racers it was informative to see if they could adapt quickly and begin to infiltrate the top times which initially were all held by EFRA drivers. I was doing a number of changes throughout the 6 rounds working to get more comfortable. I was generally one of the top 2 ROAR block drivers throughout practice which is common for me as I learn the layout quickly but sometimes then struggle improve after that. Changes involved tires and shock springs and oil as well as diffs. Constantly striving for that comfort while having fast corner speed and quick transitions. At the end of the 'free practice' I had the 12th fastest 3 lap times and I was pretty happy about things at that time.
Tuesday was two more rounds of practice taking best 3 consecutive laps. These two round would count to see you into which qualifier you would be in for the rest of the week. I wasn't quite as comfortable as that Q5 run still. I got a 16th in the first run before a number of changes I didn't care of in the second run. In the end I would seed 21st which still allowed me to run in one of the two fast heats for qualifiers.
Once qualifying got underway things went south for me. We did a lot of rebuilding for the start of qualifying and i'm not sure what we did wrong but when I went out for Q1 my car wouldn't go straight. When I picked up the throttle the rear would just come around and it was nothing short of a handful to drive. I did my best to adjust and make it work but all I could muster was a 54th. In Q2 I reversed some of the changes and decide to go more towards what I was running in practice run 5. The car was better but now I just didn't have any comfort. I was able to get a 27th in this one. In Q3, another lackluster run with mistakes and a 50th. It was not a good day 1 of qualifying and the track was really getting the better of me.
Day 2 of qualifying and I went back to basics on a lot of things, also gravitating towards Savoya's set-up and just making minor changes after each run for what I was hoping to get out of the car. I started the day with my best run of a 20th for the round. It was a safe run where I focused on no crashes. In Q5 it was more of the same which yielded a 27th. So now that they were taking 3 of 6 total I had a 20, 27, 27 and while not at all what I wanted I at least had a run where I was free to push a bit harder. I made a couple more changes and in Q6 I did have quicker pace and the car felt faster but I had 3 errors which gave me a slower time. But I was happy to have a bit more pace heading into the mains on Saturday. In the end I would qualify into the bottom of the 1/4 finals in 31st and starting 8th in the odd quarter final.
Come Saturday we had the coolest day of the week on tap. Instead of 100+ it was due to be around 90. Also as the mains got underway in the morning it was cooler and more overcast than it had been. I opted to stick with the MLW Double Downs I had been running most of the event but perhaps a SLW scribble or as we found out later perhaps clay compound would have been ideal, but I hadn't brought any. The very start of the main was ok. It was a 30 minute 1/4 final and I had a clean start and moved up a couple positions. But that didn't last as I got caught in the herd and there is no love lost in the heat of a 1/4 final. I got knocked to the back and it was just mediocrity from there. My car felt probably the best it had over the week but my pace just wasn't there. A discouraging finish to a tough event for me.
We stuck around to watch the top mains and that A-main especially was an awesome battle. It was fascinating to see Ongaro pitting at 6 min. This was going to be 2 extra stops compared to the rest of the field and so I was counting his lead. About halfway in he had about a 7 second lead and I said he's really running in about 4th right now as the top 5 were all pretty close to each other. I really thought Ronnefaulk was going to win it by 10 seconds about halfway into the main as his pace was there and the fuel stop savings. I still don't understand why Ongaro didn't at least do the 6:45 pit window to only need 1 extra stop. He doesn't drive hard and is butter smooth, I just can't imagine his mileage being that low unless the engine leans out at the bottom of a tank and he just requires a very consistent tune for his driving. Either way it made it fun trying to figure it all out and then Phend made a great charge as well. In the end it was a bit anti-climatic with a couple mistakes by Ronnefaulk and Ongaro cruised to his second W.C. Congratulations to him and all those who made this A-final.
Now we work hard on the program in preparation for the next worlds which should be held somewhere in America in 2024.